Why does making have to be about the end result? Cath Dean suggests we take time to go the long way round.
We live in an age of ‘look what I made’ Instagram posts. The thrill of watching the ‘likes’ and comments roll in make it easy to fall into the trap of approaching creativity like so many other things in life – something to achieve or complete, or another job to tick off the list. Day-to-day, I’m constantly on the go and juggling deadlines, but I’m beginning to realise I need a shift in mindset when it comes to making.
Make time for slow crafting
It’s not just me either – slow craft is having something of a moment. A niche has opened up for artisan makers to create businesses out of lovingly hand-produced pieces that take dozens, if not hundreds, of hours to construct. Take, for example, Bristol-based Angie Parker. Her vibrant tapestry rugs are hand-woven on an oversized loom, and each piece tells a story of the time and love poured into it.
Another inspiration is wood carver and artisan maker EJ Osborne of Hatchet + Bear. EJ’s hand-carved utensils are full of intricate details that add hours onto every project, but the exquisite end results make it worthwhile. Osborne’s new book, Spoon Carving (Quadrille, £20), celebrates slowing down and taking time to enjoy the creative journey. Find EJ’s tactile designs on Instagram @hatchetandbear.
You don’t have to be working on a grand project to tap into this artisan mindset. For me, it’s about finding a make that sparks your imagination. From a granny blanket pieced together from individual crochet squares built up over months, to a daily notebook of sketches and doodles, what’s important is creating something that’s just for you.
That’s what I’m hoping for when I start a pottery course this month. I’m going to have to ditch my perfectionist tendencies and competitive streak, and take time to enjoy exploring a new material. Even if the shapes forming under my hands are on the wonky side, I suspect there’s pleasure to be found in knowing I’ve spent time crafting them.
Create space for creativity
Part of the beauty of an ongoing creative project is being able to pick it up as and when you can. To really get the most from it, I find it’s helpful to carve out a space devoted to a work in progress, whether that’s a dedicated craft room, a corner of the kitchen table or even a bag of yarn tucked down the side of the sofa. By claiming your own creative sanctuary, however small it may be, you are also creating time and space for yourself.
At home, it’s the desk in our spare room. It’s small and crowded with a basic sewing machine and fabric scraps, but it’s somewhere I can retreat in peace (not counting visits from the cat). My little desk opens up the headspace I need to relax and get into a project. My enjoyment comes from playing around with bits and pieces to see what comes together, rather than approaching it as a task with a goal.
I still have to remind myself regularly that craft is not something to add to my ‘to do’ list, and that I shouldn’t feel guilty when I don’t devote as much time to it as I’d like. There are enough pressures telling us to do more, do less or do something differently. I try to keep making as something that sits outside this, to enjoy when the mood takes me.
I’ve recently been spending odd evenings experimenting with simple macramé, and while the overall vibe is less Californian boho, more soggy Saturday in Whitby, the slow process of forming the knots and watching the shape develop is an absorbing way to switch off and unwind.
I find increasingly that taking pleasure in the process is the way to get the most from my making. Think of it as tapping into the Japanese aesthetic concept of wabi-sabi. Put simply, it’s the idea of seeing the beauty in the simple, asymmetric and not-quite-perfect – sounds good to me! So let’s stop aiming for the end game, start Instagramming our not-quite-but-almost makes and celebrate the joy they’ve brought us along the way. I’m game if you are.
Illustration by Chrissy Lau.